Ask Amy: Couple wants to empty their ‘empty nest’

April 12, 2012

DEAR AMY: My wife and I are 50-plus-year-old parents of an only child in her early 20s. Our daughter has made it clear that since her college graduation and first job, she is now independent and will likely not come back home to live. This is good news, and we applaud her financial independence.

The problem at our end is what to do with all the stuff she has left behind — I’m talking about high school memorabilia and athletic awards, as well as miscellaneous artifacts, clothing and accessories that she has chosen not to take with her.

We are currently redecorating her room, and she is always welcome back, but ... should we toss it all; box it up and save it; pick and choose what to keep; or should we burden our daughter with the task of sorting through this material when she comes home and deal with her resenting our request because she only wants to socialize with friends when she is home? -- Not-so-empty-nester

DEAR NOT-SO-EMPTY: These things belong to your daughter, and she should be responsible for dealing with them.

If you are in a hurry to dispatch with her possessions, however, you should pose the same questions to her that you are posing to me: “Would you like us to sort through your things ourselves, box them up, give your clothes to Goodwill, and pick and choose what to keep — or will you do this the next time you are home?”

In terms of your daughter’s resenting you — judging by the tone of your letter, I detect a tinge of resentment on your end. Turning your daughter’s room into a home spa might help you to cope with her departure.

When I was a bright young thing, my mother boxed up my high school possessions and put them in the barn. This gave me the freedom to pick through the boxes (or not). Thirty years later, I have only one more box to go through. Whew!

DEAR AMY: My fiance and I are planning our wedding and do not want children under 12 in attendance.

We both have nieces and nephews, but they are so young (all under 5) that it is doubtful they will fully appreciate what is going on or remember it later.

Both of our siblings are trying to persuade us to let them bring their children, but we have been to a lot of weddings where the children fuss during the ceremony, refuse to eat the meal, run around during speeches and dominate the dance floor.

We love children generally, and our nieces and nephews specifically, but we would like our wedding to be a more formal occasion.

We have also attended wedding showers, weddings, baby showers, and christenings for our siblings, and all of these occasions have been on their terms.

We never once complained or offered unsolicited advice.

Isn’t it our turn to have an occasion on our terms? Or should we cave and invite the children to keep the peace? -- Flustered Fiance

DEAR FLUSTERED: You should do exactly what you want to do and not cave in to pressure to do otherwise.

My own view is that a wedding ceremony is a family event intended to bring two families together. Families often include children, and sometimes children behave in unpredictable ways.

I vote to invite children to sit with their parents during the ceremony and dispatch them to an undisclosed underground bunker during the reception (some marrying couples thoughtfully provide sitters and entertainment for the kiddies).

But that’s me. It’s your wedding. You should do what you want to do.

DEAR AMY: The letter from “Sad” made me very sad. A man in the community made sexual advances toward her, and her parents did nothing to help her.

I am a male survivor of sexual abuse by female family members. Imagine how hard it is to get anyone to believe this! -- Also Sad

DEAR SAD: I believe you. And I think this form of abuse is more common than people realize. You should seek help to try to heal from this. The group malesurvivor.org might be a place to start.

Write to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

2012 by the Chicago Tribune

Distributed by Tribune Media Services

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